Books, 2012

Jan. 1st, 2013 07:30 pm
kitchen_kink: (words)
I'm going to try to do better this year than I did the last at reading books. 14, or whatever it was, is a rather pathetic number for an entire year.

1. Fudoki (started in 2011), by Kij Johnson. This, like all of her work, was a jewel of a thing. Every detail beautifully and simply crafted; emotional moments touched with the lightest of brushes. Lovely.

2. Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins. I really enjoyed this book, but it kind of feels like Robbins was careless in places, here. Like the speech of Pan and his nymphs wasn't correct usage of archaic second person familiars in English, which kind of drove me nuts. Overall it was as delightful as he always is even when he's not at his best.

3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarre. I think I've finally decided that however much [livejournal.com profile] imlad loves this story, I do not. At first I thought it was just that I find spy stories confusing, which is true. But no; I think it's just boring. The miniseries from the 70s, in spite of starring Alec Guinness, also isn't doing a hell of a lot for me.

4. Sandman, Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, by Neil Gaiman. How wonderful. It's so exciting to read this for so many reasons, not least of which is watching Gaiman be young and epically emo and getting his feet wet with this character, and knowing how much better it's going to get.

5. Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Fantastic. I've been recommending this to everyone, as its insights are fabulous.

6. Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem (reread, aloud to [livejournal.com profile] imlad). I loved this book the first time around, and I still really enjoyed it; reading it aloud was especially fun. But after a second go through I see its deep flaws; it really is a bit too clever for its own good.

7. A Game of Thrones, Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin. Yes, I could no longer resist, since my entire freaking household is reading these, and the TV series is so, so, so good. However, so far I'm finding that the writing isn't quite where I need it to be to keep my interest. I think Martin is a television writer for a reason: he's great at world creation and character arc, but he needs great actors to flesh it out. Finished it, finally; while I'm tempted to keep reading, I'm told that the books get even more drawn out, and the show is doing some fabulous condensing that really works. Also recognizing that I want to be reading only extraordinary things.

8. Magic For Beginners, by Kelly Link. Speaking of extraordinary things. I loved this so, so much. Just one strange, mysteriously touching, gem of a thing after another.

9. The Fortunate Fall, by Raphael Carter. [livejournal.com profile] rhya lent this to me; it's little-known and I think out of print, but it's his favorite, and I see why. Reminds me of The Sparrow in many ways: a spec fic written by a scientist who'd never written a novel before, yet came up with brilliance. Finished it and had my heart stomped a bit; it's a difficult one, oy. But so worth it.

10. Sandman, Volume 2: A Doll's House, by Neil Gaiman. The creeptacularity continues. It's neat to see how each one gives a sense of what's to come and how good it's going to get.

11. House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski. I've been wanting to read this since [livejournal.com profile] imlad did a few years back, but I've been kind of avoiding it at the same time because of its ambitious appearance. Infinite Jest took a long time to get me to read it, too. But [livejournal.com profile] rhya brought it up as a favorite and called it one of the most terrifying books he's ever read, and he's a horror fan. So I finally picked it up (and was shocked by how heavy it was). I'm about halfway through and it's...phenomenal. Literally. It feels less like something I'm reading and more like something that's happening to me...which is kind of the point. ETA: Finally finished this and still sort of processing. The ending felt...inconclusive, like the book is meant to keep going even after it feels like you're done. Which I think is also part of the point. Also wow.

12. Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott. I borrowed this from [livejournal.com profile] quinnclub ages ago, and never gave it back. (There's a single word in Russian for doing exactly this: borrowing a book with no intention of returning it. Of course this word is only ever used by the person who has irrevocably lost the book, not by the person borrowing it.) Anyway, it is a magnificent little volume which took me only a few hours to read, about writing and how to do it. It has given me a little kick in the pants to get some writing discipline on again, and it also made me laugh out loud, a lot.

13. In The Night Garden - Part 1 of The Orphan's Tales, by Cathrynne M. Valente. I loved this pretty unreservedly. Such a delicious twisty thing; reading it felt like savoring a great feast over many hours.

14. In The Cities of Coin and Spice - Part 2 of The Orphan's Tales, by Cathrynne M. Valente. I loved this less unreservedly. The beginning was extremely dark and creepy and difficult, in a way that felt a bit like a slog rather than like a horror I couldn't look away from. It got better as it went along, but it feels a bit to me like the second book is lacking something the first book has; I can't say exactly what. I was pretty satisfied with how it all wrapped up, and really appreciated the return of many characters from the whole of the series in unexpected ways. The way she plays with perspective, and how we as readers decide what and who is important, and who is the good guy or the bad guy, and so on, is very, very nice indeed.

15. Gate of Ivrel, by C.J. Cheryyh (in process). I started this when I was way too tired, and found it unbelievably boring. I returned to it when I was less tired and started to get interested. I'll see if it holds my interest; it's short (unlike her Cyteen which I tried to read for a class years ago and simply could not get into at all), and is a book [livejournal.com profile] rhya likes a lot.
kitchen_kink: (Default)
Going to actually try to really, truly keep track of this this time. Because dude, I'm curious. Now therefore, a list of books I read in 2011, with very brief reviews.

1. [Started in 2010] Refuge, by Terry Tempest Williams. Strange and beautiful.

2. The Bed of Procrustes, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. A book of aphorisms largely serving to prove what a cranky, egotistical douche Taleb is. Maybe. In reality, I still can't decide whether I hate it or not.

3. Faust, by Goethe (in progress) I stopped this, because the translation was silly. Anyone know of a really good one?

4. Delta of Venus, by Anais Nin. Wacky, sort of wonderful early-century erotica, no-holds-barred, so quite disturbing in places (underage homosexual prep school gang rape, anyone??). I'm tickled by her clear obsession with Freud.

5. Bloodsucking Fiends, A Love Story by Christopher Moore. Wonderfully silly, as he always is. Mildly offensive in places, in ways I've come to expect. Also, a few gorgeous places where his grasp of emotion and story really shines.

6. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. I loved this book unreasonably. It feels to me like Stephenson here has finally gotten the hang of making his own geekery, which in other books can get tedious to some readers, be essential to the plot and characterization. Also, I cried and laughed a bunch, which really, is most of what makes me love a book.

7. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. Yes, I'm having fun reading Moore these days. This edition is leatherbound in black with gold lettering and edging and a red ribbon bookmark, like a Bible. Awesome. I really loved this book, more than I expected to. It's a surprisingly respectful and heartbreaking retelling of the story of Christ, with a lot of laughs and a lot of those deep, emotionally resonant moments that Moore is so good at amidst the comedy.

8. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. I've been meaning to read Mieville for a while now, since everybody's talking about him. I'm only a little way in and it's fascinating, but really, really dark and gross, like Chuck Palahniuk without the humor. Not sure I'll be willing to deal with it. [EDIT: Finished; review here.

9. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I didn't necessarily expect to like this book, but was pleasantly surprised, especially by the section narrated by the monster, which is the book's heart. The rest of it is actually rather weak, especially on the character-development front, but the pacing and relentless horror of it is astonishing.

10. Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delaney. I absolutely loved this book; I was astonished to finally read a book by a sci-fi writer in the early '60s who could write women sensitively, deal with race complexly, be exquisitely aware of emotional communication and intuition, and know something deep about trauma. Of course, Delaney was a gay, black writer working in that world, so I can't imagine how his work couldn't be different from his contemporaries. A lovely little book; the story is only so-so, but the journey is worth it.

11. Story of O, by Pauline Reage

12. Healing Through the Dark Emotions, by Miriam Greenspan

13. Fool, by Christopher Moore

14. Fudoki, by Kij Johnson (in progress)
kitchen_kink: (Default)
Hey all,

Mike Marano is a terrific writer and a pretty great guy, too. :) He's teaching a class at Grub Street this fall on how to write a smart page-turner - I'd take it myself if it weren't on Monday nights. Check out his blog post about the class for more detail, and sign up before Sept. 19!
kitchen_kink: (Default)
So, I've finished Perdido Street Station, about which I posted so sideways-enthusiastically the other day.

I found the whole thing weirdly pleasurable, not necessarily in a train-wreck-can't-look-away sort of way that was going to be my first analogy, but rather in a perverse, intense, viscerally pleasurable sort of way, the same way I sometimes enjoy extremely dark sexual fantasies, or reading Clive Barker, or watching something like 28 Days Later.

Spoilers. )
kitchen_kink: (kate brick)
1. Has anyone else here read Perdido Street Station by China MiƩville?

2. If so, are you finding it as BLINDINGLY FUCKING OMG NIGHTMARE-INDUCING CREEPY as I am??
kitchen_kink: (Default)
Wow, I just went through all the clutter in my front hall and found I had been delivered a book by Royal Mail. Last Summer at Mars Hill, by Elizabeth Hand. I swear I remember someone talking to me about this author. Was it [livejournal.com profile] infinitehotel?? Help!!

(And thank you!)
kitchen_kink: (words)
I've been listening to a lot of podcasts while exercising lately, and I'm loving "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." The one I listened to yesterday had a highly entertaining piece about best-selling Japanese novels that were composed on cell phones. Taking it just that step further (as they tend to do over there for the sake of comedy gold), Peter Sagal had Carl Kasell read some famous novels - if they had been written on Twitter.

(I reproduce here from memory - accuracy not guaranteed.)

The Grapes of Wrath: Times are bad. Sister breastfeeding homeless guy. Man, I'm outta here.

Pride and Prejudice: I hate that guy! Actually, he's kinda hot.

and my favorite,

Lolita: This post removed due to violation of Terms of Service.

I propose starting a meme - particularly because I kind of hate Twitter and find it useless. Express your favorite novels in fewer than 140 characters - and have people guess what they are.

Here's mine (trivially easy):

Bellies of airplanes suck. Much prefer trees. Especially while naked. They can't prove I'm not really crazy.

AmazonFail

Apr. 16th, 2009 02:09 pm
kitchen_kink: (demon)
EDIT: Apparently I wasn't only behind on jumping on the bandwagon; I'm late in realizing that the bandwagon has been overturned and set on fire.

Sorry! Apparently the whole thing was a huge mistake and it's fixed. I'll still be shopping at Porter Square Books, though. :)


I'm late catching the bandwagon on this one, but the upshot is this: Amazon is removing the sales ranks from all books dealing with GLBT issues, claiming that they are "adult content," while leaving things like Playboy calendars and other heterosexually oriented adult material alone. This means that when you search for, say, a book on the history of the gay rights movement, the book you want won't appear on the first page of results, or maybe at all.

A good summary of the debacle is here.

I'm boycotting Amazon until further notice on this one, and I hope you'll consider doing the same. A petition against this madness is here.
kitchen_kink: (Default)
It's especially fun because it's hard to know whether you're right or not!


Name a CD you own that no-one else on your friends list does:

Secret Agent Abe, Canaan. This is an incredible little EP from a local NJ band who play a kind of surfer/funk/Arabian/rock mix with a mercurial soprano lead singer. Sadly, after randomly seeing them live as an opener for someone else and buying this CD, I discoverd that it's actually God-rock! Sigh...

Name a book you own that no-one else on your friends list does:

Hmm...Funny thing is, I want to name something that I'm also proud of owning. Let's go with Christopher Tilghman's The Way People Run.

Name a movie you own on DVD/VHS/whatever that no-one else on your friends list does:

I could cheat and mine [livejournal.com profile] imlad's collection of obscure Russian stuff...except I don't know what any of it is. :) Let's say Bill Hicks: Revelations.

Name a place that you have visited that no-one else on your friends list has:

I doubt I can do this. My travel hasn't been all that exotic...let's see...the island of Hydra in Greece?

EDIT: How about The Washington Hotel in Princess Anne, Maryland?
kitchen_kink: (Default)
I haven't had any adverse symptoms in the past few days, and perhaps as a result I haven't been as meticulously recording what I eat. Also, it's been similar to the stuff I've been eating, with perhaps a greater emphasis on Thai food. (Are rice noodles and white rice okay, I wonder? I did have brown rice tonight...) What this has also been an opportunity for is lots of amazing sushi. Sooooosheeeee...

I cheated a trifle today and had my rooibos herbal chai with soy milk and...a little raw sugar. The Diesel was out of honey!

I went to a prose reading at chez [livejournal.com profile] fanw last night and read an exceedingly wrong passage from a Chuck Palahnuik book I favor. (Just keep thinking: What would Jesus not do?) I also met some cool new people, an adorable new cat, and many new chocolate chip cookies and cheeses I couldn't have. Wah. But a good time was had by all, and then I got to go home and do terrible terrible things. :)

Wow. Looks like I'm sort of writing a real entry. This could get dangerous.

Perhaps I'll return this week with some words...
kitchen_kink: (Default)
To whom did I lend my copy of Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body?

Book log.

Apr. 20th, 2004 11:22 am
kitchen_kink: (Default)
I realized recently that for all of the books I read, I never keep track of them. This is unfortunate, as I often borrow books and so my bookshelf is no good record of what I've read. Also, there seems to be some sort of 50 Book Challenge going on - read 50 books in a year. This isn't at all difficult for me. But I don't think I'm off to a good start, at all. Particularly since I only really read in the bathroom, or on the train, which I no longer ride regularly.

Thus far, though, if I remember correctly, in 2004 I've read: )
kitchen_kink: (Default)
If you haven't watched this MoveOn ad, go do it now.

And a quotation for [livejournal.com profile] wurmwyd, apropos of his recent, ahem, liberation:

"Libraries are brothels for the mind. Which means that librarians are the
madams, greeting punters, understanding their strange tastes and needs,
and pimping their books."
-Guy Browning
kitchen_kink: (meditative)
"Literature is sacred. It is as sacred to me as anything I know. I suspect that most editors and agents feel the same way, if only during the quiet, kept hours of the night. But there is always the issue of how one goes about selling the sacred without defiling it. There is the issue of how one goes about superintending the sacred when tens of thousands of fellow brethren, some of them abundantly insane but many of the truest sort of heart, want to add to its flame. What does one tell them? That they are not holy enough? However one personally and professionally elects to handle these troubling issues, a tiny piece of the sacred is ruined. For me, at least, all of this inevitably leads to a small, quiet grief. We would all like for our worlds to be bigger."

-Tom Bissell
kitchen_kink: (happy)
I finished One Hundred Years of Solitude today, on the subway, then read the last few pages again over lunch. Its ending had a strange effect on me: I was moved to tears, but not necessarily because of sadness; they were the kind of elated tears that come along with a big, unbelieving smile, the sheer astonishment that an author could accomplish what he'd just accomplished, and also the vague sense that he's just had one over on you, but it was a really, really good joke with an important message, so you can't do anything but laugh.

I didn't find any quotations I really needed to have as sig files or anything until the very last section, at which point I found two meta-quotations that I adored:

"It had never occurred to him until then to think that literature was the best plaything that had ever been invented to make fun of people..."

and

"The world must be all fucked up...when men travel first class and literature goes as freight."

Especially considering the trick he pulls at the end, these two sentiments are just amazing to me. I won't reveal the magic key of this book that left me with a big smile on my face. Just read it.
kitchen_kink: (galadriel)
"Why is the measure of love loss?....I am thinking of a certain September: Wood pigeon Red Admiral Yellow Harvest Orange Night. You said, 'I love you.' Why is it that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear? 'I love you' is always a quotation. You did not say it first
and neither did I, yet when you say it and when I say it we speak like savages who have found three words and worship them...."

-Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body


I have been on LiveJournal Hiatus for a few days because I have been furiously writing in my paper journal and in impassioned emails. (When did rhapsodic email communication replace the handwritten love letter? With the advent of that level of speed in written communication, do we fall in love faster? Progress the relationship faster?)

Once again those three words have invaded my life: 'I love you.' Each time I say them to someone for the first time, I am forced again to consider what they mean. Why are they so monumental, when they are so overused? Why are they the specific words that press at the back of my lips, bursting to get out, when my feeling for someone becomes overwhelming? And how does it change when it is expressed to more than one lover?

How is it possible, Winterson wonders (as do I), that the same three words can be simultaneously worn-out and fresh, that these words are the only words for that strength of feeling? 'A precise emotion demands a precise expression,' she says, 'and if what I feel is not precise can I call it love?'

To me, and ultimately to her, the very imprecision and yet total individuality of the feeling is what makes it love.

'I love you' is a place-holder, I wrote to both of my loves, a cipher standing inside our language, waiting to be filled with inarticulable feeling. One can say it to a hundred different people and have it mean a hundred different things, but the thing that links them, or should link them, in my view, is that the feelings behind the words are always complex and powerful. [livejournal.com profile] tafkar and I discussed the other night that there should be as many different ways to say 'I love you' as there are Innuit words for snow: 'I love you and you're my best friend.' 'I love you and I want you to be my life partner.' 'I love you, and we can't be together anymore.' 'I love you and if I could fuck you all day and all night I would.'

Yet we use the same words. Is this sheer laziness on our parts? Surely the phrase has suffered from people using it thoughtlessly, distractedly: the sleepwalking sign-off at the end of a telephone conversation. Still others use it to manipulate and abuse: a lame apology for striking your wife in the face, a trump card used to end an argument, like an expensive but meaningless bouquet of words.

But when it is meant and is felt, the words display a complex of emotions, each individual to the person receiving them. A mother might be saying to her son as he goes off to war, 'You are the world to me, I'd die for you, and please be careful.' An old husband might say to his wife of 50 years, 'Your presence in my life gives me comfort, and I'm so proud to have shared this time with you.' New lovers might be saying, 'Your body is like a temple in which I worship, I wish I could consume you, or crawl inside your skin, your touch sears me like a brand.'

But instead they all say, hopefully, tenderly, fiercely, 'I love you.'

I believe that these words are not merely a shorthand but a kind of prayer, an invocation, a phrase of power that calls forth the deepest ways in which we feel for another. Whenever I say it I feel a moment of being lost, as if what I have said has fuzzed over the precise feelings in my head, and a moment of crippling doubt where I wonder if what I have said is truly what I mean. And then I know that I've said exactly the right thing, because it is that sense of danger that accompanies those words that gives them power, the moment where everything I feel for someone distills, without defining and thus diluting itself, into a kind of song.

Fear, when it is named, described, and understood, dissapates, said the author of an erotic story I read recently. So too with love, he fears: when it is pronounced it loses its power. I think not. 'I love you,' said reverently, saves us from that. Not from examining our feelings and desires, which is important, but from trivilizing them by parsing them out: I feel this for you, but not that. I only give you this percentage of my heart, I legislate this love's boundaries. It is an offering, a way of saying, this I give to you freely, and without limit.

What are your thoughts?
kitchen_kink: (Default)
Reading Stephanie Vaughn's wonderfully simple and elegant Sweet Talk has got me thinking of story ideas from my own life. The obsessive way Scott used to make shopping lists. The hours I would spend in front of the computer, him frustrated at the time taken away from him, even as he cut into weekend time together with his ridiculously ritualistic housekeeping behaviors. Vaughn manages to write stories that revolve around the major points in a life: a divorce, a father's death, a mother's cancer, a short-lived but obsessive relationship, without concentrating on the event itself: she instead weaves between the lines of the events, fills in the blank spaces, the details of the lives that go on, inexorably, during life's little tragedies.

Just write, you crazy person. Stop thinking about whether it's a novel or a story or whether it's going anywhere or not. Stop being so afraid of it and just write, sit down and just write, just write, write, write and shut up.

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dietrich

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